Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube have teamed up to share their expertise spotting terrorism-related content, in order to crimp its spread.
The four put their name to a joint statement in which they declare “There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services.”
The definition they're working with is “violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images that we have removed from our services.”
All four companies have committed to “the creation of a shared industry database of 'hashes' … of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos we have removed from our services — content most likely to violate all of our respective companies’ content policies.”
There's no guarantee any of the participants will share all their observations: the statement says “Each will also decide what it shares in the combined database”.
Nor will the four harmonise content policies. Instead each will make its own decisions about what to remove and when.
It's also promised that “No personally identifiable information will be shared, and matching content will not be automatically removed. Each company will continue to apply its own policies and definitions of terrorist content when deciding whether to remove content when a match to a shared hash is found. And each company will continue to apply its practice of transparency and review for any government requests, as well as retain its own appeal process for removal decisions and grievances.”
The four also hope that other companies sign up for the shared database, a sensible idea given there's a Google-shaped hole in this effort. China and Russia's big web outfits also seem, prima facie, to have plenty to offer. If the four current signatories are happy with their hashes making it across those borders.
One place the pact will be celebrated is inside Trump tower, as president-elect Donald Trump once suggested Bill Gates should switch off the internet to prevent the spread of radicalism online. ®